‘Devastating tragedy’ as family of seven found dead in Australia

A family of seven, including four children, have been found dead with gunshot wounds at a rural property in south-west Australia in what could be the country’s worst mass shooting in 22 years.

The children died with their mother and grandparents.

The three generations had moved to Osmington, a village of fewer than 700 people near the tourist town of Margaret River, in 2015 to grow fruit, media reported.

Police would not comment on the possibility of murder-suicide, but they are not looking for a suspect.

After being alerted by a phone call before dawn, police found the bodies and two guns at the property, Western Australia State Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said. Police would not say who made the call.

The bodies of two adults were found outside the house and the rest were found inside. They all lived at the property, he said.

Police have no information to raise concerns about wider public safety, suggesting a shooter is not at large.

Osmington is a collection of a few streets, farms, holiday accommodation and vineyards supplying the premium wine-making district known as Margaret River.

Samantha Lee, chair of the Gun Control Australia lobby group, said rural areas were over-represented in Australian gun deaths, including suicides.

“Regional and rural areas are particularly vulnerable to these sorts of tragedies, because of the combination of isolation, sometimes mental or financial hardship and easy access to firearms,” Ms Lee said in a statement.

“Although the details of this tragedy are yet to come to light, Australia has a tragic history of higher rate of gun deaths in rural areas,” she added.

- Press Association

Earlier: Four children among seven dead in Australia shooting

Update 7.06am: Four children and three adults have been found dead at a home in rural Western Australia.

Detectives have described the incident at a farm northwest of the holiday town of Margaret River as a "horrific tragedy".

Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said police were called to the property at 5.15am yesterday, and officers have no concerns about wider public safety.

"Police are currently responding to what I can only describe as a horrific incident," he said.

"This devastating tragedy will no doubt have a lasting impact on the families concerned, the whole community and, in particular, the local communities in our southwest."

Police were attempting to make contact with victims' relatives, Mr Dawson said.

He would not comment on the possibility of murder-suicide.

Two of the adults were found outside and the other five victims were inside the home in Osmington, 20km northeast of Margaret River in the famous wine region.

Police found two firearms and Commissioner Dawson confirmed some of the bodies had gunshot wounds.

He said the "male person" who had called the police had some connection to the property.

The incident has taken its toll on first responders, he added.

"This devastating tragedy will no doubt have a lasting impact on the families concerned, the whole community and, in particular, the local communities in our southwest," he said.

"Homicide Squad detectives from Perth are assisting local police in investigating the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.

"They will be supported by other specialist police units.

"A police chaplain is in attendance to provide support to all persons, officers and others that are impacted by what has happened."

He said police will be at the farm for "several days at least".

The commissioner was unable to confirm the ages of the children as their next of kin are still being notified.

Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson. Pic: Government of Western Australia.

This could be the worst mass shooting in Australia since a lone gunman killed 35 in Tasmania in 1996, prompting the nation to introduce tough gun controls.

Australia's gun laws are widely acclaimed as a success, with supporters including former US president Barack Obama saying Australia has not had a single mass shooting since they were implemented.

The generally accepted definition of a mass shooting - four deaths excluding the shooter in a single event - has been met only once in Australia since then in 2014 when a farmer shot his wife and three children before killing himself.

Farmers are allowed to own guns under Australian law because they have a legitimate need to use them to kill feral pests and predators or sick or injured livestock.

But automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are banned from public ownership.


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